Thursday, August 16, 2012

Enjoy "Paul Ryan spurs excitement within Ayn Rand's creepy fanbase". Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

Romney's Florida dilemma

"To get a more nuanced look at the economy’s role in the presidential election, The Miami Herald analyzed eight economic indicators for the 14 states where polls are the closest. The exercise was designed to roughly answer the question Ronald Reagan made famous in 1980 when unseating another Democratic president battling a battered economy. 'Are you better off than you were four years ago?'"

No swing state could honestly answer yes to that question — none have seen hiring return to where it was in 2008. But some clearly have done better than others, and the bulk of them are outpacing the country in some key metrics.

Ten have lower unemployment rates than the current national average, which hit 8.3 percent in July. The federal labor agency will release state-level unemployment reports for July on Friday. Only three swing states saw their unemployment rates increase more than the nation’s did during the last four years.

Eleven have lower foreclosure rates than the nation, and eight have seen stronger property values than the national average since 2008. And since the end of 2008, eight swing states have watched their economic growth outpace the nation’s. ...

“The question is, in states that are doing well, who do voters credit?’’ said Quinnipiac University pollster Peter Brown. ...

The question can be a dicey one for the Romney campaign as it balances criticizing the Obama economy without offending hometown Republican governors touting the rebounds underway in their states. At a Romney rally in St. Augustine, Fla., this week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott had encouraging words for the Sunshine State’s rebound, where unemployment is dropping faster than almost every state in the country.

“Even though we have a president that is making it much, much more difficult to do well, in Florida our economy is getting better,” Scott said, according to the Associated Press. “Just think what the state could do then if we had the right president.”
"Most swing state economies faring better than U.S.".

Florida DEP closes the case

"The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has closed the case on a suspended employee without investigating her claim she was being punished for her handling of a controversial wetlands case."

Connie Bersok, a DEP wetlands specialist, was suspended on May 11, two days after she wrote a memo critical of the permit application for the Highlands Ranch Mitigation Bank in Clay County. Wetland mitigation banks allow developers and governments to fill natural wetlands for construction and roads by paying to have wetlands restored elsewhere.

DEP said on May 30 that contrary to media reports, Bersok had not been on leave because of the memo -- rather she was placed on leave because of an investigation.

An investigation report later showed that, Mark Thomasson, director of DEP's Division of Water Resource Management, had cited Bersok for work attendance and conduct violations. The inspector general's investigation could not substantiate Thomasson's concerns and she was reinstated on June 5. ...

The Highlands Ranch Mitigation Bank is a proposed 1,575-acre project that includes the preservation and restoration of upland sandhill pine forests and various wetlands. DEP says a new approach is being applied to the project that holds the mitigation bank operator more accountable by releasing of credits only after environmental restoration is completed and verified to be successful.

On May 9, Bersok wrote a memo for the application file stating that she objected to the department issuing a permit for the project. Three days later she was suspended with pay and locked out of her computer and email account, and the file had been removed from her office.

"I believe that this action was directly related to Highlands Ranch Mitigation Bank," Bersok wrote to DEP Inspector General Candie Fuller in a May 13 email.

On May 31, Fuller determined that Bersok's case did not represent a "whistleblower" complaint under Florida law (FS 112.3187). The case, Fuller determined on a form's checkboxes, did not involve either a threat to public health or safety, or gross mismanagement or neglect of duty.
"DEP di't investigate suspended employee's claim of retribution".

"Ryan no help for Romney in Florida"

"The first Florida poll done after Mitt Romney announced his selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate shows him getting a slight bump in a number of swing states, but Florida isn’t one of them."

The poll, done by a partnership of Republican and Democratic pollsters in a dozen swing states, found the Romney-Ryan leading President Barack Obama and vice President Joe Biden in Florida by a single point, 48-47 percent.

That’s a slight improvement for Obama over the same poll’s mid-July result, Romney with 48 percent to Obama’s 45 percent. Considering the poll’s 4-point error margin, there’s little or no difference statistically between the two results.
"Purple Poll: Ryan no help for Romney in Florida".

Sorry, Mini-Mack: words mean things

"Did U.S. Senate candidate Connie Mack IV call Paul Ryan’s budget proposal 'a joke'? He says no, but it could depend on how you read the quote—and he continues to criticize the proposal as not tough enough."

At the time, Mack was being criticized by his former primary opponent George LeMieux for missing votes in the House while campaigning, including one on the budget proposal.

Asked about that, his answer included the following, according to a recording supplied by his campaign: “By the way, that budget vote this past week, you know that was kind of a joke, right? I mean, it’s not going to balance the budget for 24 years, the Senate’s not going to do anything with it.
"Did Mack call the Ryan budget “a joke”?".

Silent Scott

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Scott silent as utility bills soar".

"Goodbye primary, hello general election"

"Florida's primary is over, but there are still 84 more days left of campaign season for all of the political junkies out there left unsatisfied by Tuesday's undercard races. The primary went a long way toward deciding the Senate leadership battle, but there are still plenty of questions left to be answered in the general election." "Campaign Roundup: Goodbye primary, hello general election".

Primary Roundup

The Miami Herald editorial board: "Primary colors".

Jeremy Wallace: "Primary results challenge political wisdom".

Bill Cotterell: "Primary results prove 'a wake-up call' for political pros". See also "Primary lesson: Voters don't always follow a script".

The big story: "U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, a longtime incumbent Republican from Ocala, has been handed a stunning defeat, undone by a veterinarian turned tea party candidate named Ted Yoho. The loss reverberated nationally, speaking not only to the lurking prowess of the tea party but also the threat facing incumbents."

For two years, U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns has used newfound clout in Washington as a spear against the Obama administration, heading probes into Solyndra and Planned Parenthood that have made him one of the most reviled figures among Democrats nationwide.

But Stearns' 24-year career came to a shocking end Tuesday by the hand of his own party, defeated in the Republican primary by a horse doctor from Gainesville named Ted Yoho.

As Stearns conceded Wednesday, the news reverberated nationally, speaking not only to the lurking prowess of the tea party but also the threat facing incumbents, especially those not pounding the streets with all the zeal of their first race.

"He thought he was invincible," said Ray Carlile, chairman of the O'Brien Tea Party in rural Suwannee County, which voted 2-to-1 for Yoho and helped him pad the 800 or so vote advantage that retired Stearns.
"Newcomer unseats Stearns".

"Yoho is expected to cruise to a very easy victory over Democrat J.R. Gaillot in the Nov. 6 general election." "Tea Party Newbie Ted Yoho Gives the Boot to 24-Year Veteran Cliff Stearns".

See generally: "Ex-Senate President Tom Lee Scores Primary Victory Over Rachel Burgin", "Primary Victories Push Joe Negron to Future Senate Presidency", "Senate leader posts a clean sweep", "Bitter, Expensive Northeast Campaign Ends in Victory for Aaron Bean", "Edwards wins Democratic nomination in District 98 race", "Kelli Stargel Takes Down Two GOP Challengers in Senate Primary", "Joe Martinez’s day went to the dogs", "John Legg Advances to Senate", "Ellyn Bogdanoff Advances to Battle of Incumbents", "Florida primaries treat legislative leaders well", "Jeff Brandes Scores Victory for Joe Negron in Senate Leadership Battle" and "Longtime congressman beaten by horse doctor in Republican primary".

Yee haw!

"New 350-acre 'shooting park' with gun ranges, clubhouse proposed for state wildlife area".

"Florida history on election night"

"David Richardson, a 55-year-old forensic accountant and political newcomer, says he’s comfortable having made Florida history on election night. 'I am the first openly gay legislator in the history of Florida. And forever will be,' said Richardson, who on Tuesday defeated three other candidates to represent state House District 113 in Miami Beach." "David Richardson becomes Florida’s first openly gay legislator".

Medicaid costs from Affordable Care Act "difficult to pinpoint"

"Scott and Republican legislative leaders have long argued that the federal health overhaul would drain too much money from Florida's budget. But as a group of state analysts met Tuesday, it became clear that Florida's additional Medicaid costs from the federal Affordable Care Act -- Obamacare -- are difficult to pinpoint." "State Tab for Obamacare Hard to Predict". See also "State economists punt on Affordable Care Act".

Mini-Mack to address RNC

"U.S. Senate candidate Connie Mack IV to address Republican National Convention".

SD 27 Dem primary recount

"If Rep. Jeff Clemens' margin of 0.14 percent -- 35 votes -- holds over Rep. Mack Bernard in the Senate District 27 Democratic primary, it will prompt a manual recount." "Campaigns lawyer up as SD 27 primary likely heads to recount".

Braman's martyrs

Poor Norm: "Three of the four martyrs that Norman Braman unleashed against incumbent county commissioners did no better than Joe or the dogs."

A fourth member of Braman’s reform slate, Luis Garcia, barely made it into a runoff with County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, who missed an outright majority by 11 votes.

In January, Braman and his followers had opposed a county ballot initiative that would have instituted eight-year term limits and barred county commissioners from holding outside jobs. Reformers were peeved that term limits would not be applied retroactively. (Others were bothered that the no-outside-employment ban came with reasonable salaries, based on a state formula, as opposed to the $6,000-a-year pay set back in 1957.) In January, about 83,000 voters said that reform package wasn’t good enough.
" But after the dismal showing by Braman’s slate on Tuesday, 'not good enough' begins to look better than nothing.".

Was Sternad a Rivera campaign plant?

"A Democratic congressional candidate may have violated federal campaign-finance laws after spending at least $24,000 in cash on mailers without disclosing the source of the funds."

Justin Lamar Sternad, one of several candidates who lost Tuesday’s District 26 Democratic primary election to Joe Garcia, paid for the mailers in cash. The work was done by Rapid Mail & Computer Services, a well-known Hialeah mail firm, owner John Borrero told The Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald.

Borrero estimated that each of Sternad’s six mailers cost $4,000 to $5,000. He said Sternad paid him, beginning in August, on repeated occasions. The payments could have totaled as much as $30,000.

“He came in and paid for them in cash,” Borrero said, adding that other campaigns had paid with cash but that many pay with a check.

Garcia and Democratic candidates in the other campaigns have claimed Sternad was a plant from the campaign of Republican Rep. David Rivera, who faces Garcia in the general election. ...

When asked by The Herald how he could afford all of his mailers, Sternad responded via email: “Kiss my ‘lily-white’ ass.”
"Suspected Rivera-ringer might have broken campaign laws".